The Basics of Constipation: FAQs

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Constipation refers to a condition when bowel movements are decreased in frequency. Symptoms may include lumpy or hard stools, infrequent bowel movements (less than 3 per week), straining with bowel movements and a sensation of incomplete evacuation after bowel movements.

Q1: What Causes Constipation?

The most common cause of constipation is a diet which is low in fiber.  Low-fiber foods that can cause constipation include ice cream, cheese, meat, and refined or processed foods from which the natural fiber has been removed (i.e., chips, pizza, pastries).

Q2: What Lifestyle Changes Can Remedy Constipation?

A diet that contains 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day helps to form soft, more frequent stools. High-fiber foods include beans, whole grains, bran cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fiber supplements can also be used to help achieve an intake of 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.  Inadequate fluid intake or dehydration can contribute to constipation.  It is recommended that individuals drink 6 to 8 glasses (8-ounces) of water per day.  A regular exercise program also promotes regular bowel movements.

Q3: Is Constipation Dangerous to My Health?

Although constipation may be bothersome, it is usually not serious and responds to dietary and lifestyle changes. If necessary, your physician can recommend laxatives for a limited time period.  Alarm symptoms which should prompt a visit to your doctor include a persistent change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss.

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